Sunday, 26 April 2015

The 2014-15 Saskatoon Stars will shine forever

The Saskatoon Stars celebrate winning the SFMAAAHL title.
    When you post a 45-5 record, there isn't too much you can be disappointed about.
    That mark was put up by the Saskatoon Stars during action in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League regular season and playoffs, the prestigious Mac's tournament and the Esso Cup national championship tournament. On Saturday in Red Deer, the Stars skated away with a 5-1 victory over the Portage la Prairie based Central Plains Capitals to capture a bronze medal at the Esso Cup.
    With the way victories piled up for the Stars this season, it seemed they would win the Esso Cup to complete the triple crown of female midget AAA hockey in Canada by winning the Mac's tournament title, the provincial title and the Esso Cup all in the same season.
    On New Year's Day, the Stars downed the Calgary Fire 4-2 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary in a nationally televised game to bring home the team's second ever Mac's title. Saskatoon was a perfect 9-0 in the SFMAAAHL playoffs. A 2-0 victory over the Prince Albert A & W Bears at the Agriplace Arena gave the Stars their first SFMAAAHL title in team history.
    They advanced through the preliminary round of the Esso Cup with a 4-1 record. In a semifinal match on Friday, they suffered an untimely fifth loss with a 2-1 setback after a tiebreaking shootout to the host Red Deer Chiefs.
    Saskatoon rebounded nicely with the 5-1 win in the bronze medal game. Mackenna Parker, Sophie Shirley, Julia Rongve, Kianna Dietz and Nara Elia all scored singles for the Stars, while Karlee Fetch made 27 saves in goal to pick up the final victory of her midget AAA career before graduating to the post-secondary ranks.
Courtney Cormack (#17) hugs Brittany Heuchert after a goal.
    Sheridan Oswald had the lone reply for the Capitals, while Lauren Taraschuk stopped nine shots in goal.
    While there had to be some disappointment the Stars didn't get to the Esso Cup title game and win it, they were still making their first appearance in team history at nationals, and the bronze finish was their first medal win at the event. Their season was spectacular.
    They were good even in their semifinal loss on Friday. Shirley gave the Stars a 1-0 lead scoring on the power-play at the 8:18 mark of the first. It looked like Saskatoon would get rolling at that point.
    Cassidy Hollman potted the equalizer for Red Deer on the power play in the second to make the score 1-1. Chiefs netminder Sarah Murray turned away 30 shots through regulation and a 10-minute four versus four overtime period.
    Emma Johnson, a 15-year-old sophomore, was equally as good in goal for the Stars turning away 25 shots through 70 minutes of play.
    The Chiefs had two goals disallowed. One was called back due to the Saskatoon net being knocked ajar and the second was disallowed after being knocked in with a high stick.
    The Stars failed to score on at least four different breakaway opportunities. One of those chances came in overtime, when 18-year-old forward Brittany Heuchert failed to find the back of the net. As one of most loved and respected players amongst her teammates, Heuchert would have written a story book finish to that game had she scored.
    Instead, Red Deer's Mairead Bast scored the only goal in a tiebreaking shootout in the session's fourth round to give the Chiefs victory.
Karlee Fetch made 27 saves in her final win in goal for the Stars.
    Overall, the Stars season was beyond something that would be written about in a fairy tale or a movie script even with the semifinal setback. They entered the season with only five players in their 17-year-old and final midget campaign. Saskatoon's roster was loaded with players in their 15-year-old seasons and five players in their 14-year-old campaigns, which meant they were still eligible for bantam hockey.
    At the start of the campaign, it would be hard to think the big goals they accomplished would be possible. Going out and winning 90 per cent of your meaningful games is something no coach or anyone involved with a team can imagine at the start of a season.
    Various football teams have done that, but over the course of a season that ranges anywhere from 10 to 16 games at the amateur level. It is unthinkable over a campaign that contains 50 contests.
    Over the season, Shirley, who was the SFMAAAHL and Esso Cup most valuable player, and Elia, who was the SFMAAAHL scoring leader and Esso Cup most sportsmanlike player, emerged as superstar talents.
    The campaign was a dream that became a reality. Had the Stars won the Esso Cup, the campaign would have been better than a dream.
    It is safe to say the season the Stars had will never be forgotten by the players, coaches, team staff, parents or the team's fans.

Narcisse All-Star Event a big success

A Don Narcisse football card from 1991.
    Saturday was alright for Don Narcisse and friends.
    The Canadian Football Hall of Fame member, who starred as a receiver for the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1987 to 1999, was in Saskatoon on Saturday hosting a one-day football kids' camp. The day concluded with a gala dinner at the Travelodge hotel. The entire function for the day, which was titled the Don Narcisse All-Star Event, raised funds for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Saskatoon and Area.
    The camp held at the Sasktel Sports Centre was a big hit, where about 150 kids aged seven to 18 ran through a series of fun drills to develop skills. The camp helped reinforce a love of the game for the kids, and it allowed them to meet a number of current and former Roughriders players.
    The guest coaches included Belton Johnson, John Chick, Anthony Allen, Levi Steinhauer, Xavier Fulton, Marco Harris, Paul Woldu and Weldon Brown. Chick was the keynote speaker at the gala dinner.
    This marked the fifth year in a row Narcisse hosted one of his All-Star Events in Saskatoon, and it was once again a big hit bringing in all sorts of positive reaction.

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